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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Only boy in class


sandsmom

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Our 9-year-old son started ballet last fall and so far he has been enjoying it very much. The school has been extremely supportive, and as they saw that our son was very serious about learning, they moved him from a recreational track to pre-pro track after a few months.

 

The only issue is that he is the only boy in his class. He doesn’t mention this too often, but we know that it bothers him a little bit. All the girls are very polite and no one is negative at all about our son being in the class, but he simply doesn’t have anyone to chat to, so he’s often isolated (e.g. while waiting for class).

 

The most recent example was when the girls’ costumes for the year-end performance arrived. Everyone rushed to get their costumes, and our son, since he has been quite curious to see what his costume would look like, went as well, only to be told that his was not ready yet. The girls were all excitedly trying theirs on and commenting on how they looked, but our son just stood to the side.

 

I’m sure he’s getting good training and as mentioned, the school has been very supportive (including providing scholarships), but we have been wondering if it’s good for him to continue to be the only boy in class and constantly feel that he’s the odd one out. While we would hate to disappoint the school (as I know they really want to encourage boys in ballet), we were thinking of looking at other schools that might have a larger number of boys in classes for the next school year. We’re not even talking about all boys classes at this stage, which seem harder to find, especially at his age. My general impression of the school at the moment is that there really aren't that many boys in their ballet program, even in other levels.

 

It would be great to hear your opinions on whether we should go ahead and start looking. Or, do you think it’s not a big deal and it’s ok to continue where we are this coming year, especially since the school has been so supportive? Thanks!

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Your son is only 9 - if you have found a school that's convenient for you to get to and where they care about him and where he's getting good training, I would stay put. Give it another couple of years at least. I trained a lone boy until he was 16 and only then did he go away for pro training. What I did though was to make sure that he had opportunities to dance with other boys from about the age of 13 - SI's, private coaching with a male teacher with another boy, that sort of thing. He had no problem chatting with the girls - on the contrary! I think perhaps that your son may feel a bit shy and reluctant to start conversations with the girls, but I think that it would help him if he became friendly with the girls in his class rather than just exchanging "polite" words. My own three sons went to mixed gender schools and were quite friendly with the girls in their classes. When they were a bit younger than your son, they sometimes preferred playing with the girls for some quiet time!

 

You can help him too, by not making too big a thing when he is disappointed about something like his costume being the last one to be ready etc. This is simply because it's a special one-off costume just for him. It's actually not easy for the schools when they have a lone boy in a class - they need special attention and the chance to be taught boys' steps even if it means the 15 girls in class with him have to wait whilst we teach the boys' version. At our school, we have a stock of girls costumes for the recital - the boys have to have something different made specially for them. I have a ten year old boy at the moment in one of my classes. He too is a bit shy with the girls, but he's slowly opening out and interacting more. I made a copy of the set class music CD for the girls - the little boy had to wait a couple more days, because I had to find the time to make a special play list with his music on my computer first. So it's not for want of caring, just that a special effort has to be made for a boy. Generally for the recital dance, I also like to highlight the fact that there is a boy in the class by building the choreography in such a way that he has a special part to take in the dance. However, it is worth it and I am always so happy when I get a boy in my classes.

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What does your son think?

I think it really depends on the child. I can tell you that if we had not moved our son to a school where he danced with other boys he would not still be doing ballet, which would be a shame, since he loves it.

In my son's case he told us that he liked ballet but did not want to be the only boy in the class. This was just before he turned 9. We were fortunate to have a studio within reasonable commuting distance that had a number of boys at his level. This is not always easy to find!

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I agree it depends on the boy. My son had no problem being the only boy in class at 9 and 10. From about 12, he was one of two boys, sometimes three, up until he went away to residence school around 14. Honestly I think his best classes were those days when the other boy(s) were not in class. The dynamics shifted somewhat when there were other boys in the class. He was much more focused when it was just him and the girls.

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Thank you so much for the insightful responses. It’s really helpful to hear each of your experiences, and Hamorah, the teacher’s perspective.

 

Doublejoy, you're right, it probably depends on the child. For the most part, our son is not too bothered about being the only boy. He has said a few times that he wishes there were other boys in class, but it’s not like he’s always complaining about this. So for him, so far, being the only boy is not a "deal breaker" (though it's not as if it doesn't bother him at all). Given this, and given how supportive the school has been, perhaps it’s best to stay put, and as he gets older, explore opportunities to dance with other boys, as suggested by Hamorah.

 

Cheetah, it’s interesting to hear that your son was more focused when he was the sole boy in class. I can imagine our son getting goofy if there were other boys in class -- I hadn’t really thought of that!

 

Thanks again for sharing your views!

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  • 1 month later...
elasticboysmum

my son is the only boy in class and he doesnt mind it at all..He gets plenty of attention from the teacher and the girls find it interesting and funny to try the boys exercises...the deal is that james does the girls exercises and they try his out...

If there were more boys in the class he wouldnt get so much attention and he waits whilst the girls get their instructions and the teacher always gives james instructions for class dances seperately after the girls are sorted. He always gets a special part in dances..usually at the front right in the middle which he loves..he has found it has given him more confidence to work with girls all the time and the teacher makes him feel special which he likes!!

He is due to do his exams in a few weeks and the teacher is bringing him in to exam class with the girls and has also offered him a couple of seperate sessions as he will be doing his exam on his own...this makes him feel rather important...maybe in a couple of years it would be nice for him to have the odd lesson with a male teacher but for now it works just fine!

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  • 2 months later...

My Son, who is 14 has been the only boy not only in the class but in the school since he started about 18 months ago!! I find the main issue is that because the school is quite a distance from us it is very hard for him because he doesn't make friends there due to time constraints etc. At the moment the issue we are seeing is that he is a normal 14 year old boy who wants to hang out with his mates but for him it's either dancing or his friends - none of them are interested in dancing. Now the time is rapidly approaching where he has to increase his classes and it is a real sacrifice for him because of the long commute time and the class time, his day is over and he hasn't seen or spoken to any friends. Anyone got any ideas for a solution?

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This was about the point where we went with a resident program. The girls at DS studio - though he liked them - lived in a neighboring county and had a very different schedule school-wise. They were very kind about including him in activities - along with their boyfriends when applicable, but they also lived a bit far from him. No public transportation, so he was cut off from that group socially and of course cut off from his school friends socially. He was much happier, and better adjusted, once we made the move to the boarding program. I will say, however, that we probably would have tried to persevere another year in public school but the school would not work with his schedule. Had we known this, we would have elected to move him to the full-time program a year earlier.

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I agree. Since he has a passion for ballet it is important that he be in an environment where he has peers who are just as passionate about it. I can see that you are concerned with the person he is, not just the dancer, and sometimes the 2 are difficult to separate. :thumbsup:

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